Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pumpkin Chip Brownies

Yep, it's that time of year again -- almost Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving. So it's time pull out the pumpkin and spices. If you're looking for something a little different this year, look no farther, because this recipe is pretty much a marriage between pumpkin pie and brownies.

Here's what you need:

1 box Duncan Hines® Chewy Fudge Brownie mix
2 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, separated
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (roughly half of a small, 15 oz. can)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet because that's what I have on hand, but you can use whatever you think sounds yummy)
1 can Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter
1 packet Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Pumpkin Spice Flavor Mix (limited edition/seasonal)
Optional: 16 Mellowcreme® pumpkin candies, for decoration

First off, preheat the oven to 350°F; then line an 8"x8" square pan with foil and spray with cooking or baking spray. Next, combine the brownie mix, eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and water in your mixing bowl. Mix it up on low until a nice brownie batter forms, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Set the bowl of brownie batter aside for now and get out another bowl. In this bowl combine the pumpkin, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Mix it up well.

Next, scoop 3/4 cup of brownie batter out of your first bowl and add it to the pumpkin mixture. Mix the brownie batter and pumpkin mixture together.

Now add the chocolate chips to the remaining brownie batter in the first bowl and incorporate them thoroughly. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Next, spread the pumpkin mixture on top of the brownie batter in the pan. Then swirl the two batters together using a knife.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350°F, then let the brownies cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once it's cool enough, you can remove the batch of brownies by grabbing hold of the foil and carefully lifting it out of the pan; let the brownies continue to cool on the wire rack until they're completely cool.

Now to prepare the frosting! Mix the Pumpkin Spice Flavor Mix into the can of Frosting Starter as per package directions, making sure to stir until there are no more white streaks in the frosting.

Slather that can of frosting all over your cooled brownies, making sure to spread evenly.

Lastly, carefully cut into 16 brownies with a small, thin knife. Top each brownie with a Mellowcreme® pumpkin candy, if desired. I personally think it adds a cute touch, plus you can use it as an indication of the flavor of the brownies. =)

Ta-dah! Pumpkin Chip Brownies: perfect for a Halloween party. =D The only thing I want to caution about is that, honestly, Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ frosting, while tasty and innovative, is thinner and runnier than other canned frostings and homemade buttercream. I tried refrigerating the frosted brownies before cutting them, but it didn't seem to help very much. The bottom line is that this frosting is, unfortunately, messy. I do wonder if you could make a homemade buttercream icing, minus the vanilla extract, and add the flavor packet to that instead. If anyone ever tries it, let me know how it turns out!

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orange Crème Whoopie Pies

Okay, so here's the deal. I entered a Duncan Hines® baking contest back in August, and while I didn't win, I DID come home with more than enough free products to make up for the entry fee. Part of what I took home was four cans of their Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter, not realizing that they had expiration dates by the end of the year. Yikes! And I already had two cans at home that I got with coupons, so that left me with six. I used one on some cupcakes a while back, but now that it's getting closer to the expiration dates, I'm having to use them up fast.

Enter this recipe for Orange Crème Whoopie Pies. It takes two cans of Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ to make, AND I already happened to have the flavor packets I needed. Plus, I'd never made whoopie pies before, so I was interested to see how they'd turn out!

Here's what you need:

1 (18.25 oz.) box chocolate cake mix*
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups water
2 cans Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Frosting Starter
2 packets Duncan Hines® Frosting Creations™ Orange Crème Flavor Mix

*The website doesn't give a weight for their cake mixes since they've changed, but I'm sticking to my guns on using the 18.25 oz. packages as long as I can find them. Luckily, Duncan Hines® has only changed the weight for their "classic" mixes and left their "signature" line alone, so for this particular recipe I used Duncan Hines® Swiss Chocolate flavor cake mix. I found out that a local grocery store carries pretty much all of Duncan Hines®' signature cake mixes, which is a great relief! Other than these, you could also use a store brand that is still 18.25-18.5 oz. or two 9 oz. boxes of Jiffy® brand (which is close enough). Of course, you could also just use the reformulated cake mixes, but I simply choose not to on principle.

Anyhow, let's get to the baking! Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper (trust me, parchment paper is CRITICAL in this recipe). Then throw together all of your ingredients into the mixing bowl except for the Frosting Starter and Flavor Mixes. Mix it up until it's nice and combined; the batter will be relatively thin.

Now you'll need to use a cookie scoop that is about the size of a tablespoon to scoop out even portions of batter onto the cookie sheets. It's important to do as the recipe says and put no more than 6-8 little cakes on each cookie sheet, because they do spread quite a bit. I did 6 to a sheet. Bake them for 8 minutes at 350°F, then let them cool off before moving the parchment paper, with the cakes still on it, to a cooling rack. Then you can put some more parchment paper on the cookie sheet and scoop out some more little cakes.

While you're letting the little cakes cool and baking up some more (it takes several batches), you can go ahead and stir up the orange crème frosting as indicated on the cans. Also, since the Frosting Creations™ frostings tend to be quite a bit thinner, you may want to let them chill in the fridge for a bit after mixing them up.

Finally, once your little cakes are completely cool, you can begin the delicate process of turning them into whoopie pies. I say this is a delicate process because I had some trouble with it, personally. The little cakes are so delicate and moist that touching them at all leaves some kind of mark on the cake and crumbs on whatever surface it touched. Basically, the best way I found to do this was to carefully peel off one little cake from the parchment paper, turn it upside down (flat-side up), and place it right back in its spot on the parchment paper (bits of the cake are left behind on the paper). Then, carefully glob on some orange crème frosting, spreading it to the edges with a knife or spatula. Lastly, carefully peel off another little cake from the parchment paper and place it on top of the little cake you just iced to make a sandwich. Ta-dah! Whoopie pies.

I cannot stress enough how delicate and messy these whoopie pies are. I really doubt that I'll make this particular recipe again, even though they are reasonably tasty. For one, the little cakes are just too moist and delicate to handle without marring them, and the Frosting Creations™ frosting is simply too thin and runny to be used in a sandwich cookie of any kind. By the way, I don't care what the Duncan Hines® website says -- storing these whoopie pies in between layers of wax paper doesn't make them pretty. Seriously, you just can't move or touch these with anything without making them ugly. =( Oh well, you live and you learn, right? Hopefully I can find a better whoopie pie recipe to try again someday. =)

Your Cupcake,

~Jesia <3